We Need To Be ‘Moving at Lightning Speed’ Toward Clean Energy


Clean energy initiatives are growing in prominence around the world. Stateside, one of the more prominent developments regards a wing of the U.S. Department of Energy called the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E.

It funds projects aimed to shift energy markets to more sustainable methods, with developments the past few years focusing on next-gen batteries that may operate in future electric cars. The wing’s research hopes to make renewable energy cheaper and thus more accessible, making the prospect of research and investment in similar initiatives more appealing.

ARPA-E has actually been in a healthy competition with Elon Musk’s famed Tesla Motors, specifically the battery division. Tesla’s Powerwall batteries are used by homes and small businesses for solar panel energy, though next-gen energy-efficient batteries generally remain in a “Wild West” phase, according to Alveo Energy chief executive Colin Wessells. He predicts that within the next few years, new technologies no one ever imagined will have emerged.

Acceleration for ARPA-E

As both government wings such as ARPA-E and companies like Tesla continue to work on technologies that no one will see coming, there are urgings from several notable figures for clean energy initiatives, in general, to be accelerated.

At the March 1 ARPA-E summit outside of Washington, D.C., Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said accelerating the efforts of ARPA-E is advised, as the project has shown its worth thus far. The wing is responsible for 200-some projects, ranging from robots that detect gas leaks to clothing that can cool and heat with high energy efficiency.

ARPA-E is funded largely by United States commitments to Mission Innovation, an agreement signed in December 2015 by 20 countries in Paris. The agreement represents a worldwide initiative for clean energy research, research that the likes of Moniz and World Bank President Jim Kim want to see accelerated.

Kim has noted that people are being forced to make choices about what energy they use. To keep global warming below a targeted level, Kim says, there needs to be that lightning-speed change toward clean energy. Market forces have not yet moved enough to force the switch.

The “Energy Apartheid”

Kim has used the term “energy apartheid” to describe the troubling development of wealthy nations and poor nations in terms of energy recognition, where the poor nations are not in a state to invest heavily in clean energy. All the while, the energy use in these locales is stymying growth in clean energy areas.

Kim has spoken frequently about this energy apartheid. He notes that when confronted with a choice between a clean energy source, such as solar, and something like coal, there’s often a higher tariff on the renewable. It’s difficult to blame people and governments for opting for a cheaper option, but that’s part of the issue. Poorer nations often have no choice but to go the cheaper, yet ultimately more eco-destructive, route.

Hopefully the increased initiatives from ARPA-E and the likes of Tesla will result in successful creations that serve as a guiding light to more developing countries, which understandably would rather not invest in something without first knowing its effectiveness elsewhere. Clean energy initiatives can positively impact a variety of presently struggling industries. For instance, highway building brought construction spending up 1.5 percent in January 2016 compared to the previous month.

With construction companies competing with one another for projects, the incentive to also develop cleaner construction energy would need to be significant, though long-term cleaner energy initiatives could reduce spending in construction and other industries. There’s a great incentive to do this. Improving the environment and slowing global warming will help us for centuries to come.


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Kayla Matthews
Kayla Matthews is a healthy living blogger who has a passion for living well, happily and productively. You can follow her on Google+ and Twitter, or find her at ProductivityTheory.com.